I knew I needed to become a writer after reading Frank Herbert’s Dune. I must’ve been about eleven years old at the time. I didn’t have an inkling about writing a rough draft, let alone the laborious editing process required to craft a decent manuscript. But I was captivated by how Mr. Herbert spun such a fascinating and realistic world of sci-fi splendor and swashbuckling adventure in such a slender volume. If you discount the appendices, Dune is well under 500 pages. To this day, I’m hard-pressed to think of another author who created such an enthralling and believable world with so few words.
Frank Herbert isn’t the only author I owe a debt of gratitude. My novel Dragons Walk Among Us is a young adult urban fantasy written in first person present tense. I never would have considered such an undertaking when I first found the stick-to-it-iveness to sit down and crank out words. That was before I read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I admit I found the style a bit off-putting initially, but I quickly warmed up to the immediacy the technique gives Katniss Everdeen’s adventure. When I first started writing in first person present tense, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I feared I’d find the first person narrative limiting and the present tense aspect hokey. Not the case at all. Turns out, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. If it wasn’t for Suzanne Collins’ example, I never would have even considered experimenting with the technique.
Two themes that play essential roles in Dragons Walk Among Us are being an outsider and questioning one’s perception. The works of Fonda Lee and Rachel Hartman helped me solidify my thoughts on these themes. In Hartman’s Seraphina series and Lee’s EXO series, the protagonists are pariahs who end up questioning the social order of their respective worlds. In Dragons Walk Among Us, Allison Lee, the protagonist, is a member of a minority. She often feels she is an outsider and, after being blinded, questions reality, even her sanity. The protagonists’ character arcs in Seraphina and EXO gave me insight into how to elucidate these themes in a manner that I think resonates with readers. Of course, Rachel Hartman’s books include dragons, and just about any book containing dragons is inspirational.
Lastly, I drew inspiration from observing my son’s experiences, who is biracial. Not being a minority myself, I can’t claim to have ever experienced racism. My son, however, has experienced it. He was upset and pensive over the incident but has since moved on. His experience had a profound impact on me. I was already aware of the racial tension permeating the United States, but having my child brush up against the ugly beast of racism brought the issue to my doorstep. I fear the fault lines of bigotry and bias run deeper and wider than many people care to admit. One example is the anti-Asian sentiment emerging in the wake of the pandemic. All this is to say, some of Allison Lee’s experiences are loosely based on my observations of my son’s experiences. I can honestly say, I don’t think Allison’s story would be authentic without my son providing some inspiration.
BIO: Dan Rice has wanted to write novels since first reading Frank Herbert’s Dune at the age of eleven. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he often goes hiking with his family through mist-shrouded forests and along alpine trails with expansive views.
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